I recently received a question from a woman who asked:
“I was in an affair but I am now choosing my marriage. Something keeps dragging me back to my affair partner. How can I stop it?”
It happens when your marriage gets to be empty and unfulfilling but you don’t really notice it.
This feeling of wanting to end the affair but inexplicably being drawn back in is more common than you might think.
Your marriage becomes routine and expected.
Suddenly without any warning, a person (man or woman), appears and starts meeting the emotional needs that were not met by your spouse. It feels so refreshing, so exciting that you need it and want to pursue it.
So in secret, that’s exactly what you do.
Living the two lives of infidelity
You simply can’t resist the way this person makes you feel, so you find yourself living two lives – a secret life with the affair partner and a legitimate marriage.
The more endorphins you feel from this person, the more stale and empty your marriage appears by comparison.
During this time, you are not able to take an interest or be genuinely attracted to your spouse.
Your marriage literally ceases to exist because your heart has been sold to the highest bidder and that highest bidder is not your spouse.
But that’s not all.
Your children’s needs, your spouse’s needs, your household needs, and your financial needs all take a back seat to your secret affair.
What causes addiction to affairs?
Day after day, the affair escalates into the equivalent of a drug addiction you simply can’t bring yourself to stop.
Endorphins and dopamine are drugs in your brain that create a pathway, a kind of flow that keeps on flowing.
These brain chemicals that prevent you from thinking straight are one of the reasons why some people become addicted to an affair.
Until you realize that this chemical concoction exists, you will not be able to stop and it will control you.
Ending an affair
The prospect of leaving an affair requires commitment on both a logical AND emotional level.
1) Let’s deal with logic first.
Begin by writing down what you want in a relationship.
You might write, “I want to feel safe, I want to feel validated and important, I want to feel unique, I want to feel self-sufficient.”
When you have a list of 5 to 12 traits that make you feel good, think about what drew you into the affair in the first place.
This list helps you realize that you didn’t make these things a priority in your marriage. The two of you to simply never talked about it. This list is the logical part of ending the flow of these chemicals.
2) Now let’s deal with your emotions
Go back to the beginning of your relationship and make a list of the feelings you had at the very start. In most situations, you’ll find the above list turns out to be the same list you had at the beginning of your marriage.
The truth is, you lost those feelings because the two of you ended up treating each other like your mom and dad’s treated each other back when you were kids.
- Women treat their husband the way their mother treated their father.
- Men treat their wife the way their father treated their mother.
Another way to say this is that…
You fell into a trance that turned your marriage into the relationship of your parents.
For virtually all of us, this is a very creepy thought.
We never wanted our parents’ relationship. We want the marriage of our choice. But you can’t have a marriage of your choice until you start making those choices consciously.
To free yourself from addiction to your affair partner, you need to switch your desires over to your spouse.
That means you will need to make that list for your spouse so the two of you can begin to talk about what those feelings mean to you.
As you begin to talk about those feelings, things start coming out that were buried between you a long time. During those conversations, the two of you will release the fears, anxieties and frustrations that really come out of your own childhood pain.
That work is very healing and that’s the kind of work that breaks off the chemical flow from the affair.
You will need to picture yourself having many conversations with your spouse about your deepest needs that you have always wanted from your intimate relationship.
It might sound like this:
“Dan, I never told you this, but the reason I wanted to be married is because I wanted to feel safe, validated, important, and self-sufficient. I had an expectation that my husband would do that for me but I never thought to tell you. So I wrote these needs of mine on this card and I thought you could write your needs on your card and we can begin talking about it in a way we never have before.”
That kind of honest and real talk will bring up all kinds of things, but don’t lose sight of your mission.
You have discovered what you needed most and you have honestly communicated that you had an expectation that your husband could deliver.
How interesting it will be when he makes his list and the two of you begin communicating in a way you never have before?
It won’t be easy or pretty in the beginning, but don’t give up.